Mackenzie Bristow – M2 Reflections

I am interested in creating online material to provide learners with more flexibility, give me the opportunity to flip my classroom, and finally to consider my audience beyond the US.  Here at Emory, many of the learners who attend ELSP are also pursuing their PhD or are research employees.  It would benefit them greatly to have certain activities or whole courses online so they do not have to travel to attend class.  Additionally, I would like to spend less time teaching certain grammar or organizational points and more time practicing and using them when we have time together. I believe those focused lectures could exist online with ease.  Finally, it cannot be ignored that much of my population is not here in the US.  I would like to reach learners all over the globe and assist them with academic English.

I think there are a few areas that I can perform well taking my experiences into consideration. In Van de Vord and Pogue (2012) instructors reported feeling surprised at the amount of time needed to deliver student feedback within the online environment.  For me, this is the norm. Within my field instructors to provide focused individual feedback on almost every speaking and writing event.   Each learner will experience variations in their language development, and as the instructor we must respond in relation to the language objectives set forth in that particular task. Although we do not fix all the grammar errors, as you might imagine, we may spend an hour on one paper addressing organization, word choice, tone, and clarity.

An additional instructor concern, illustrated in Lin and Dyer (2012), addressed student survival and learning capacity within the online environment.  Understandably this thought has crossed our minds as we experience our own learning curve within this course.  Interestingly enough, we are experiencing firsthand the solution proposed in Lin and Dyer (2012) where the online instructor is omnisciently present though the “Ask the Instructor” discussion forum. As learners we feel assured and supported though this simple feature. Other factors such as the video tutorials and exploratory phase of the curriculum allowed us to smoothly move into the online learning space. Personally, I hope to pull from my skills in scaffolding information to achieve a similar structured environment where students are successful.

I also see opportunities to create dynamic experiences though Content Based Instruction.  This method of creating curriculum has been in the ESL field for a number of years. At its core, curriculum is developed so language learning is facilitated through an extended topic.  It would be useful to create a content based course focused on technology. This would provide the framework to address some of the technical needs of the students and give rise to simulating topics as the course progressed.


An area of concern for me revolves on my reliance to spontaneously address misunderstandings. Although I could articulate my appreciation for tutorial videos and discussion forms above as a learner, I still feel concern as an instructor.  Lin and Dyer (2012) illustrate this reality when describing the role instructor’s play beyond simply delivering content. This general description rings true when I reflect on how aspects of non-verbal feedback, empathetic movement, and paralinguistic sounds ( i.e. the verbal sounds or tones we add to convey meaning) pay a role in a successful language learning classroom. This is in addition to the overwhelming literature on the importance of social interaction when learning a new language.  Solutions for this may include heavy use of tools like Voicethread and Adobeconnect.  Google hangouts might also be useful tool as students could see when other learners were around so they could work together.  I can also imagine the a chat function being very useful with lots of positive feedback from the instructor on a regular basis.

Lin H, Dyer K, Guo Y. (2012) Exploring online teaching: A three-year composite journal of concerns and strategies from online instructors. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration15(3).

Van de Vord R, Pogue K. (2012). Teaching time investment: Does online really take more time than face-to-face?. International Review of Research on Open And Distance Learning. 13(3). 132-146.

46 thoughts on “Mackenzie Bristow – M2 Reflections

  1. I agree with your point Mackenzie, about the helpfulness of the “ask the instructor” thread in the discussion forum. This both aids the student in feeling always supported and saves the instructor from having to answer the same emailed question repeatedly!

  2. Wow! I hadn’t thought much about the ESL learner in the online environment. That is a great point. I think it is especially relevant because minoritized and low-income Americans make up a large demographic of the students who are choosing to study online (as many of them need a flexible option to balance work and school). Yet I can imagine the additional hurdles that language acquisition might present in these spaces. You have my wheels turning on this one…

    1. I agree, Adrianne–this was a great point. It also makes me think about how misleading the idea of the “digital native” has been. Yes, current college students may have grown up with the web, smartphones and other technologies, but most of them have not used Web 2.0 technologies, at least not in the ways we are asking them to use them. So in some sense, most students in an online class are learning a type of “language” and students for whom English is a second language are dealing with 2 types of new language learning.

  3. Mackenzie, thank you for your thoughts which raise a couple questions for me. On the time front, do you think this is because online teaching inherently takes more time, or just that it’s still new and the artifacts and methodology to design are still being learned. Also, I agree with on the non-verbal part, but do you think this is something technology can really ever over come without face-to-face contact? I think of how many times in a classroom that the students misunderstand a concept, but it’s only through spontaneous conversation where the instructor picks up on something that this is uncovered. Would serendipitous discovery be as common in the online environment?

    Joseph Drasin

  4. Thank you for all your great comments! As a response back to Joseph, I don’t think online teaching takes more time than in class. I really can only speak towards my own experiences and time I spend on classes. In my reflection above I attempted to articulate that I did not feel time would be an issue. Maybe part of my writing was unclear. I really liked your observation that serendipitous discovery could also happen in the digital context. I think you are correct, perhaps it is just a matter to reading those signals online as I have learned to do in the classroom.

  5. I really am inspired by the ask the instructor discussion, and I hope to introduce it in my face to face class that has a Bb site. I also appreciate MacKenzie’s comments about online teaching not taking more time, because the time issue concerns have passed through osmosis to me. But like anything else, I am sure that I will navigate faster once I am more familiar with some of the tools.

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